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Court Order Forces Salamanca to Make Seneca Lease Payments

June 30, 1992

SALAMANCA, N.Y. (AP) _ Seneca Indians, who own 90 percent of the land in the town of Salamanca, accepted a $751,313 rent check from the City Council on Tuesday after a court ordered the payment.

Mayor Jerry Lockwood paid Seneca Nation President Calvin ″Kelly″ John at a bank, commending the tribe for its patience during months of dispute over the lease.

Salamanca, the only U.S. town that lies primarily on an Indian reservation, has 6,500 residents and is 65 miles south of Buffalo.

The check represents the town’s 1992 rent, agreed upon two years ago by federal, state and town officials and the Senecas. The new lease replaces a 99-year lease that expired this year.

Salamanca originally paid in February, then withdrew the check, saying the lease was vague and needed reworking.

Former Mayor Ronald J. Yehl and his wife, Patricia, sued the town, demanding it pay. After hearing arguments Monday, state Supreme Court Justice George F. Francis agreed with the Yehls, members of a citizens’ group that supported accepting the lease as negotiated.

Council President Phyllis Paquet said the council voted unanimously Tuesday to pay despite protests from some residents who want Salamanca to appeal.

″We said we didn’t appeal because the answer won’t be found in the courts,″ but in further negotiations to clarify whether the Seneca Nation owns just the land or improvements on it as well, she said.

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